Nationals-Pirates Preview

A series against the Pittsburgh Pirates was apparently all
Washington’s Mike Morse needed to find his swing.

Morse hopes for another big day at the plate when the Nationals
conclude their three-game series against the Pirates in a Monday
night makeup of Friday’s rainout.

Morse had a breakout season in 2010, homering 15 times in 266
at-bats, but has been unable to duplicate that production in the
first few weeks of this season. After arriving in Pittsburgh
hitting .196 with four RBIs, though, Morse has gone 5 for 9 and
driven in four runs in the first two games of this series.

The left fielder had a three-run homer among his three hits to
help Washington (10-10) snap a three-game skid with a 6-3 win

“Absolutely, I’ve kept my confidence,” he said. “That’s one
thing I won’t lose is confidence in myself.”

The sudden hot hitting shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to
the Pirates (9-12), as Morse has batted .500 with two homers and
six RBIs against Pittsburgh.

He’ll try to continue his surge against Paul Maholm (0-3, 4.30
ERA), who has alternated good and bad performances in his four
starts this year.

Maholm has yielded two runs over 13 2-3 innings in two outings,
and surrendered 11 runs in 9 1-3 innings in the other two.

The left-hander allowed a season-high six runs in a season-low 3
2-3 innings of a 6-0 loss to Florida on Tuesday.

“I didn’t give the team a chance at all to win,” Maholm told the
Pirates’ official website. “You’ve just got to let it go, get back
to work and get ready for my next start.”

Maholm has gone 0-4 with a 6.26 ERA in seven career starts
against the Nationals. In his lone outing against Washington last
season, he gave up seven runs in 4 1-3 innings of a 9-2 loss Sept.

Although Maholm hasn’t had any success versus Washington, he
could have an advantage this time. The Nationals are batting a
major-league worst .192 versus left-handers, and Jayson Werth is
hitless in 14 at-bats against them.

The Nationals will also send a left-hander to the mound in John
Lannan (2-1, 3.43).

Lannan pitched in and out of trouble during an 8-6 win over St.
Louis on Wednesday, allowing two runs, seven hits and three walks
in five innings, but he held the Cardinals hitless in seven at-bats
with men on base. Both runs scored on solo homers.

Keeping runners off base has been an ongoing problem for Lannan,
whose .383 opponents’ on-base percentage is tied seventh-worst in
the majors.

Lannan is 1-3 with a 4.67 ERA in six career starts against the
Pirates, with significantly varying degrees of success in those
outings. He has posted a 1.80 ERA in three of them and an 8.59 ERA
in the other three.

Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen is 3 for 8 against Lannan with a
homer and a double. He was thrown out at the plate to end
Saturday’s game.